After a few hours of driving yesterday afternoon, we arrived in the very small town of Ayr, about 3 hours north of Airlie Beach. Surrounded by fields of sugar cane on three sides and a beach in front of us, there really isn’t much else to see or do here other than go diving on the famous S.S. Yongala ship wreck. It sank almost 100 years ago, with all lives on board being lost, and “it remains one of Australia’s most intriguing maritime mysteries.”
With the wind blowing at 12-15 knots our skipper informs us that it’s going to be a bumpy ride. After 30 minutes of rough waves we arrive at the dive site, with everyone on the boat looking a little green and eager to get in the water. Where’s a Hayman yacht when you need one? Within minutes we are geared up and back flipping off the boat into the rough seas. The sea sickness finally subsides as we descend down the mooring line to the shipwreck below. Within seconds the giant shipwreck comes into view, surrounded by so much fish life, it makes the Great Barrier Reef look empty. Thousands of bait fish cover the outside of the ship moving in sync like a pair of lungs inhaling and exhaling. Coral of all varieties and colours has completely encrusted the ship, so that only the vague outline of it can be seen. Sea snakes gracefully swim around and through our group, as a moray eel pops his head out to see what the commotion is about. Half a dozen giant marble rays can be seen nestled in the ocean floor, each more than a meter across while a guitar shark slowly swims across the stern of the ship. Parts of the boiler room and engine remain intact – a grave reminder to the many lives that were lost here 100 years ago.
Diving the S.S. Yongala should be a must- do on any scuba divers list. With its diversity of marine life, pristine location and sheer size, the only thing missing from this perfect dive was the anti-nausea medication.